NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — With the New Jersey Devils fighting for a playoff spot, Jon Merrill picked the perfect time to score his first NHL goal.
The rookie defenseman connected 2:34 into overtime, and the Devils snapped a two-game skid with a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.
"You always dream of this kind of stuff when you're a little kid," the 22-year-old Merrill said. "After 20 games went by and I hadn't scored, I think those dreams went away a little bit. I knew it would come when it came. Tonight was a good opportunity."
The goal came in Merrill's 31st NHL game and was set up by Adam Henrique winning a battle in the corner and Michael Ryder getting the puck and finding Merrill all alone above the left circle for an uncontested shot against Ilya Bryzgalov.
"I saw that four guys kind of collapsed on Ryds," Merrill said. "I was calling for it and he made a great play. I was walking in all alone and fortunately it went in."
The win was the second in six games for New Jersey (2-2-2), and it ended a slide that saw the Devils lose the last two games in overtime after giving up the lead late in the third period.
"It was awesome for him to get his first goal in overtime," said Henrique, who might have gotten away with a holding-the-stick penalty just before the goal. "It's such an important win for the team. That's one he's going to remember for the rest of his career."
Cory Schneider made 19 saves and Andrei Loktionov scored in regulation for the Devils, who play Saturday night at Washington in their final game before the Olympic break.
Taylor Hall had the goal for the Oilers, who lost for only the second time in seven games (5-1-1). Ilya Bryzgalov made 22 saves for Edmonton, which won't play again until Feb. 27.
"We found different ways to get points in this stretch," defenseman Justin Schultz said. "We got some solid goaltending. We've improved our game against these teams that are battling for playoff spots."
The Devils hit three posts in the game, with Ryder clanging a shot off the crossbar with 9:20 to play.
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